The Richard Grenell case

05.03.2012, 10:33 AM

On Ric Grenell’s resignation as an aid to Romney, in today’s NYTs:

“It’s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay,” one Republican adviser said. “They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn’t want to confront the religious right” … As the critiques from conservatives intensified, Mr. Grenell pressed senior aides to allow him to speak about national security issues, arguing that the best way to soothe the ire over his appointment would be to let him do his job …  He [Christopher Barron] added, “It doesn’t bode well for the Romney campaign going forward if they couldn’t stand up to the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.”

If Grinell was hounded out of his job for being gay, it’s an outrage, and one about which all Americans of good will, and particuarly conservative Americans, and most particularly the leaders of what is often called “the religious right,” should be troubled and ashamed. 

I have only one question about this, and it’s purely factual.  We are a very large nation of more than 300 million souls, many of whom are deeply interested in politics, and almost of whom, it often seems to me, blog, tweet, speak, write, and comment about contemporary politics more or less constantly.   And yet, in two lengthy articles on this story in the NYTs (including today’s on p. 1), the reporters were able to identify by name exactly one American — an individual named Bryan Fischer, who works for the American Family Association — who attacked Grinnell for being gay. 

In fact, it might be some kind of record:  One one-sentence tweet by one mid-to-low level guy constitutes the entire on-the-record basis of evidence for not one, but two, major stories in the paper of record.   And from this seemingly paper-thin foundation of evidence  comes the forbidding phrases from the reporters:  ”confront the religious right” … “As the critiques from conservatives intensified” … “the most outrageous attacks about him being gay.”

The story does refers to a column in the online “Daily Caller,” but there is no direct quote (or even summary) by which to make a judgement, and no disclosure of who even wrote the article.  And the story also cites a comment at NRO by Mathew J. Franck, but in this case we see the actual quote, and Franck’s comment seems clearly to be about the politics of gay marriage, not an attack on Grinell for being gay, or an attack on Romney for hiring a gay aid. 

Again, if this happened in this way, it’s terrible.  And in general, I thought the NYTs stories were balanced and fair-minded.  But I find myself very much wanting to know the actual names and actions of those leaders of the “religious right” who “intensified” pressure on Romney last week to fire Grinell and who in the process perpetrated “outrageous attacks about him being gay.”  If and when we learn their names,  I’ll be fully satisfied about the accuracy of this story, and I’ll be troubled and ashamed, as I think most people will be.

P.S.  Some of this controversy seems to have stemmed from Grinell auditioning, via Twitter, for a job as a comedian (and I do agree his tweets are funny) combined with Bryan Fischer (whose tweets are not funny) deciding regularly to opine on the world’s condition via Twitter.  Good grief.  If you were a visting anthropologist from Mars, trying to decide if America in 2012 was essentially serious or essentially frivolous, what would you make of the fact that we now regularly tie ourselves into knots over something called tweeting?  I think it was before the advent of tweeting that Fran Leibowitz wisely observed that “a fleeting thought should rarely be detained,” but I offer it here as a nugget of wisdom for our post-conversation Age of Tweet.

42 Responses to “The Richard Grenell case”

  1. Anna M says:

    I don’t know if this was a factor but everyone seems to be ignoring the misogyny. Grinell had to scrub 100′s of comments from his twitter account that were derogatory to women. He was adding fuel to the “war on women” fire the right has been accused of waging.

  2. Chris Gable says:

    A few facts about this kerfuffle:

    1) Both Grenell and the Romney campaign have acknowledged that religious right leaders have weighed into this against Grenell.

    2) These leaders include Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, and Gary Bauer. (is three leaders enough David?). Matthew Franck, who graciously would allow a homosexual to be employed, (though not a domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage) is just piling on.


    Grenell, who has been very open about his homosexual lifestyle, publicly condemned the Bush administration (shortly after leaving it) for opposing a U.N. resolution urging the full acceptance of homosexuality. While Bush (like nearly two thirds of the U.N. member states) refused to endorse the measure endorsing homosexuality, President Obama signed it shortly after taking office. Since then, his State Department, under the direction of Hillary Clinton, has tossed aside the cultural and religious beliefs of other countries to promote homosexuality as a basic human right, while downgrading the importance of religious liberty. Clearly, the strategy is for the State Department to force these policies (which most U.S. states reject) on the international stage and then build pressure on the U.S. to adopt measures like Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and same-sex “marriage.”

    If standing up for the basic human rights of gay people not to be jailed or murdered for being gay is worthy of dismissal, I guess Grenell’s departure is “just poilitcs”.

    3) A little googling would have found this information in a minute or less.

    4) It’s clear that what Grenell objected to was that though the Romney org didn’t mind that he was gay, they didn’t care enough him as an employee (resource) or the fact that he was being attacked for being gay and refusing to stay in the closet publicly (as GOPers usually do) — that they could not defend him and any semblance of equality, or dignity, for him. They just asked him to “remain silent”. Can you imagine what it means to a gay man to “remain silent” on the job? I know there is enough empathy among people on this site to imagine that. Personally, I can’t imagine why an accomplished professional would agree to something so demeaning.

    A few opinions on this:

    David, your inference seems to be that this discrimination, and these attacks from the religious right don’t really occur or are the work of a couple individuals. When in fact these are several heavyweights working for and speaking for major religious right orgs — FRC, AFA, Whiterspoon. I’d suggest some more research on your part on the rhetoric by these people, because their attacks on Grenell are mild by comparison with their attacks on gay people generally.

    The point here is that Romney couldn’t even be bothered saving an important asset to their org once they were challenged about it by a religious conservatives.

    David, I’m at a loss to understand how you, who say you want “dignity” for gay people, and have said it over and over, haven’t been able here to muster the imagination to see how this might be offensive to this guy (and every lesbian or gay person) — and indicative of how this campaign would react to issues that affect gay people when a challenge occurs.

    Frankly, to me, it indicates a broader trait in Romney to fold like a house of cards when expedient. Not someone I want to deal with Iran, or Congress for that matter.

  3. Chris Gable says:

    Anna — they must have known about Grenell’s tweets before they hired him. If they didn’t, it shows a deep ineptitude in Romney’s org.

    Very easy to check before a hiring decision. Employment managers at most companies check the average management employees tweets and FB page now. Certainly a spokesperson for a political campaign should be/expect to be vetted.

  4. Mont D. Law says:

    I don’t think the religious right forced Romney to fire him. The social conservatives voiced some questions about the situation, not just Fischer but the National Review, the Daily Caller, Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer.

    The campaign’s strategy for dealing with this outbreak was to keep quiet, keep Grenell out of sight and wait for it all to blow over. This strategy, with its whiff of the closet, didn’t sit well with Grenell and he resigned and made it clear why.

  5. Chris Gable says:

    Byran Fischer is not “a mid to low level guy”. He is, literally, the voice (and the face)of the AFA which owns 180 radio stations in 28 states and has a budget of 14 million as of 2004. Honestly, many of these religious right people use your work, however misconstrued it may or may not be, to justify some of awful positions that you probably wouldn’t support. I believe you have a responsibility to be aware of them.

    With respect David, I had to laugh when you announced a couple years ago after a piece on you in Gay City News that “I’m going to start this publication”. I know you didn’t, or pubs like it, because if you had you’d know a lot more about this than you do.

  6. Chris Gable says:

    * “I’m going to start reading this publication”

  7. David Blankenhorn says:

    Chris: Just quickly: the links you provided did not work for me, but assuming it’s all true, if Perkins and Bauer are in fact the two big names who did this to Grinell, why was this not reported in the NYTs story?

  8. I think the issue may have been less that Romney campaign didn’t stand up for Grenell, as it is that they didn’t allow him to perform his job duties.

    My guess is that if the Romney campaign had decided to just ignore the criticisms of Grenell based around his sexuality and his favoring of equal rights — making no statements to “stand up” for him — but allowed him to do his job as a foreign policy spokesman, Grenell would not have resigned.

    And the story also cites a comment at NRO by Mathew J. Franck, but in this case we see the actual quote, and Franck’s comment seems clearly to be about the politics of gay marriage, not an attack on Grinell for being gay, or an attack on Romney for hiring a gay aid.

    Franck — who describes Grinell as “unhinged” because Grinell said gay liberals should criticize Obama’s anti-SSM stance — clearly thinks it’s unacceptable for anyone who favors “gay rights” to work in a significant position on the Romney team:

    Williamson is quite sure that it is harmless to hire an ardent advocate of same-sex marriage for a prominent place in a campaign pledged to defeat same-sex marriage, because the hireling’s brief runs to matters not directly related to the issue. If he thinks that the gay-rights agenda doesn’t have any bearing on American foreign policy, he’s not paying attention. If he thinks that influence doesn’t run up as well as it does down in the hierarchy of a campaign, that voters are not inclined, with some justice, to regard hiring decisions such as this as an indication of the seriousness of the candidate about such a subject, and that it doesn’t matter whether the campaign is seen to be unequivocal on an issue that moves many millions of voters, then he is not the keen observer of politics I took him for.

    David, if Dick Cheney had been appointed a Romney spokesperson on foreign policy, do you honestly believe Franck would have taken to the NRO to argue that Cheney’s support for SSM makes him unacceptable as a spokesperson? Would Franck have questioned Cheney’s loyalty to the GOP, as he questioned Grenell’s loyalty?

    That aside, please consider that there are no out gay conservatives of any prominence, who don’t favor SSM. To say that Romney shouldn’t employ any gays who favor SSM — let alone “gay rights” in general, which Franck also seems to find objectionable — is the same as saying that Romney should not employ any out homosexuals, period.

  9. Whoops! I forgot to link to the NRO piece by Franck which I quoted. Here is the link.

  10. I don’t know if this was a factor but everyone seems to be ignoring the misogyny. Grinell had to scrub 100′s of comments from his twitter account that were derogatory to women. He was adding fuel to the “war on women” fire the right has been accused of waging.

    I think people are ignoring this, not because misogyny isn’t an important issue, but because Grinell’s tweets don’t seem to be why the Romney people weren’t allowing Grinell to be a public spokesperson, or why Grinell resigned.

  11. Chris Gable says:

    David, I can’t answer for the NYT (am I supposed to?) except to say that I haven’t seen anyone but you question the fact that the religious right was hounding Grenell/the Romney Campaign over this. Grenell and the Campaign both acknowledge it. I don’t understand why you would. (scroll down on this one)

  12. Chris Gable says:

    Barry, Grenell also apologized for those tweets when they came came up almost two weeks ago.

    Though you have to wonder about a campaign who hires anybody as a spokesperson who immediately has to apologize for something he’s done (comments) in the last several months.

    It wasn’t the tweets that caused him to resign, as you say, and it wasn’t the attacks (he could have weathered those). It was Romney not defending him and asking him to humilate himself in front of reporters by shutting up. The biggest asset a PR person has is their relationship and credibility with reporters. Romney’s spinelessness, prompted as a response to these religious right attacks made it impossible for Grenell to do his job.

    A word about Matthew Franck. If MF thinks that Grenell would “decamp to Obama” when he comes out for marriage equality (really? like this guy has no loyalty or professionalism? Come on MF! Grenell signed on to a guy who wants to promote a constitutional amendment to forbid every gay couple in the US from marrying, including him and his partner), then he’s never met a) a PR guy or b) a gay Republican. These two types index extremely high for ability to self-delude.

  13. Though you have to wonder about a campaign who hires anybody as a spokesperson who immediately has to apologize for something he’s done (comments) in the last several months.

    I think that decision was defensible, actually. It’s possible that Romney genuinely thought that Grenell was, substantively, the best person to express Romney’s foreign policy positions. If so, then choosing to weather a brief press storm over Grenell’s tweets would be the correct decision.

    Of course, you could respond that if Romney really thought that Grenell was the right foreign policy spokesperson, then he should have let Grenell speak to reporters about foreign policy. And you’d be right.

    I don’t think that gay republicans are necessarily self-delusional (some are, of course, but so are some of every group). You can rationally be lgbt and a member of the GOP if you either believe that the GOP’s superiority on other policy issues is so large that it outweighs their inferiority on lgbt rights; or if you believe that the best way to change the GOP stance on lgbt rights is to work loyally from within the GOP. Neither of those views are irrational on their face.

  14. Chris Gable says:

    B – My point is that defending the GOP, or in this case Grenell working for Romney (who has pledged, see below, to outlaw every ssm in the US and is against civil unions/DPs as well) while two months ago baiting Jonathan Capehart about challenged Obama to voive his support for SSM is delusional. No, not on it’s face of course, just 90% of the time.

    In the last link, Grenell harangues Capehart. (This was March 15, 2012, and Grenell is complaining to Capehart that Capehart didn’t go up to the President at a state dinner and publicly challenge him about marriage, yet a month later, he takes a job speaking for a man who wants to ban marriage between his partner and himself in the US Constitution. I call that delusional.) Saying, “I out hypocrites”. Really?

  15. Giving Grenell the benefit of the doubt, I suspect that he’s being hypocritical, but not delusional. But I can’t prove that, of course.

  16. Chris Gable says:

    Hypocrisy/delusion, in the words of Yeats “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”.

  17. Phil says:

    With all due respect, Chris Gable, I interpreted David’s original post here to be a criticism of the New York Times and the way that it handled its reporting of this story. I didn’t interpret David as saying, “See? This guy didn’t face criticism from the ‘religious right!’” Rather, I thought David was saying, “Why didn’t the NYT provide substantive examples of this criticism!?”

    On the other hand, David, when you write:

    And the story also cites a comment at NRO by Mathew J. Franck, but in this case we see the actual quote, and Franck’s comment seems clearly to be about the politics of gay marriage, not an attack on Grinell for being gay, or an attack on Romney for hiring a gay aid.

    I think you are making a distinction with little meaning. Do you really hold the belief that there is some subset of qualified out gay Republicans who oppose legal, optional same-sex marriage.

    I understand that you have trouble with the cultural meme that being ant-SSM is the equivalent to being anti-gay. But perhaps you can see that, for a gay person, opposing legal, optional, same-sex marriage doesn’t make much sense.

    Drawing a distinction between being a gay person is gay versus being a gay person who supports the rights of gays to legally marry is comparable to drawing a distinction between being a Jewish person who is Jewish versus being a Jewish person who supports the rights of Jews to go to temple.

    There may be gentiles who can convince themselves that it is not anti-semitic to oppose the rights of Jewish persons to worship as they choose, but how could you possibly expect a Jewish person to share those beliefs.

    Similarly, you’re of course aware that there are heterosexuals who can convince themselves that it is not homophobic to oppose the rights of gay people to marry the adult individual that they choose, but how can you possibly expect gay people to share those beliefs? That’s asking a hell of a lot.

  18. Phil says:

    “Drawing a distinction between being a gay person is gay versus…” — that should say, “Drawing a distinction between being a gay person who is gay versus…”

  19. Chris Gable says:

    I got an opposite impression Phil.

    My strong sense is that David is saying that was saying that the NYT were exaggerating the importance of “one low to med level guy”. David confirms this when he says “If Grinell was hounded out of his job for being gay…”.

    There is no “if” about it.

    In reality, there was a concerted outcry from extreme religious conservatives that this Romney made a mistake by hiring an openly gay person and that should be corrected.

  20. Chris Gable says:

    David, now that you’ve got those links and since you brought this issue up and it is an important one, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to address in a serious and thoughtful way.

  21. David Blankenhorn says:

    Thanks for the good comments. I now know more, but I don’t think my basic viewpoint has changed. My concern was the NYTs story (ht Phil). In my view, the reporters did not justify the main thrust of the story by disclosing the specific names and actions of leaders of the religious right who pressured Romney to fire Grenell or who attacked Grenell for being gay. Call me old-fashioned, but I simply want to see the evidence before I believe something. Basing two major stories in two days on one tweet by one guy is … pretty lame, journalistically.

    Chris says, with much rhetorical gusto, that Perkins is one of the guilty parties. I can’t find where he uses the phrase “openly gay life style” or in what context, but I agree, Chris, that that seems to come pretty close to an attack on G for being gay. And if the NYTs reporters believed that this one phrase from Perkins was the main thrust of the “intense” etc. attack on G, they should have said so in the story. But they didn’t.

    I can’t find what Chris is refering to regarding Bauer, but my sense, from reading other things, is that Bauer was commenting on the politics of gay marriage. If so, that’s different — that would make what Bauer said similar to what Franck said.

    And I’m sorry, but criticizing Romney for hiring as a spokesperson someone who disagrees with him on a major election-year issue may be a dumb thing to do, and it may be indicative of all kinds of evil inner thoughts, and it may be something that (since it done ALL THE TIME in both parties) our political culture should do more to avoid (amen from me on that), but it is simply NOT THE SAME THING as attacking Grenell for being gay, notwithstanding the fact that, yes, I suppose it’s true that almost all gay people, including gay Republicans, support gay marriage.

    So — I am still like the kid playing Where’s Waldo?, or like Reagan’s old joke about the guy who keeps saying no matter what happens “Where’s my two dollars?” … I am still left, even after all this sound and fury, with the one tweet from whatshisname and, maybe, a bad phrase from Perkins (though I still don’t know where and why he said it). I don’t think that that body of confirmed evidence constitutes much of a broad “attack” — though again, I am NOT saying (ht, Phil) that no widespread anti-gay attack from leaders of the religious right took place. But (again, just old-fashioned this way) I gotta see the specific names and actions, before I can accept, in my own mind, that this is in fact how the story goes.

    One point that the comments don’t touch on is that apparently all this took place BEFORE Grenell’s first official day on the job, which (according to one story I read) was to have been May 1.

    It seems clear to me that at least some of G’s troubles were self-inflicted, and are apart from anything connected to his sexual orientation.

    It’s also worth remembering that the entire Romney camp did everything they could to PREVENT the man from quitting. He was not fired; he quit, apparently before he had even officially started.

    In retrospect, maybe the Romney people should have let him speak on the April 26 conference call with reporters. But it seems to me that they were essentially trying, in their oh so corporate way, to tamp down any possible distraction, let whatever was happening or might happen blow over, and put the guy in a position to do a good job starting on May 1. In other words, they were focussed more on helping Romney get elected than on accomodating Grenell’s feelings and demands. Maybe that was a mistake on their part, but lemme just say, I can see their point of view, and I certainly don’t think that this one decision (of about 500 that they had to make THAT DAY on all kinds of things) constitutes some kind of indictment, of either them of or the world in general.

    I watched an episode of “Veep” on HBO the other night, and much of the plot (it’s a comedy) was based on people in Washington wildy over-reacting on the issue of tweets, or on what someone said on a blog five seconds ago. It was funny, and the humor came from the fact that the viewer could see that this was a lot of sound and fury signifying (essentially) nothing of importance. And that’s the nagging question I have about this entire episode.

    Shame on Bryan Fischer and his mean-spirited little tweet. Shame (maybe) on Perkins for saying “openly gay life style”, somewhere (I still haven’t seen where). And I’m sorry that the Romney people lost an employee that they thought was going to do a good job for the candidate (though I’m an Obama supporter). As for the rest, I remain … interested in learning more facts.

  22. David Blankenhorn says:

    P.S. A thought experiment.

    I am running for president on a platform of bombing Iraq. I hire as a spokesperson for domestic policy an Iraqi who publicly opposes bombing Iraq. My friend and supporter Sally tweets “What a dumb move, hiring someone who disagrees with bombing Iraq!” Question: Can we reasonably assume that Sally is an anti-Iraqi racist?

  23. Jeffrey says:

    Is Sally the head of a national organization with a big megaphone who is often quoted in the press about Iraq?

  24. David Blankenhorn says:

    Jeffrey: for the sake of a clean experiment, let’s say, “Yes.”

  25. Chris Gable says:


    You may not be trying to deny that any discrimination occurred. But you are clearly trying to imply that discrimination against gay people rarely happens in the US, and, not I think coincidentally, that is a message that gets put out by religious conservatives a lot of the time — including some who are associated with your organization. Yours is the only voice denying this, even among religious conservatives.

    I’d provide you with a number of links, but find myself wondering “Why bother?”. You’ve got proof here and you manage to make it into some kind of angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debate.

    With respect, when you are presented with evidence of discrimination you often make great effort, as you did here, to minimize it, justify it somehow, or discount it entirely.

    Speaking personally, this is a great source of frustration — you don’t seem to play by the same rhetorical rules you expect of people on the other side. It explains your experience of lawyers “looking at (you) like (you) have two heads” – your words.

    What I’d ask you is to address the larger issue here. The truth is that these religious right figures, along with Mrs. Gallagher and Prof. George (extremely conservative Roman Catholics), believe that gay people are disordered by their nature and that states should have the right to criminalize their sexual activities (George has said this very specifically on the eve of the Lawrence decision), and that states should have the right (this is also Romney’s position btw) to discriminate against them.

    If your goal isn’t to minimize the fact that gay are discriminated against, what on Earth would it be? Better sourcing in the New York Times? Sorry, I don’t think anyone reading this can help with that.

    You say, and I believe (though it can be very hard to believe you sometimes) that you would be ashamed if this man were hounded from his job for being gay.

    Well, here you are quoted on the site supporting the North Carolina amendment. (Nice touch with the “liberal Democrat” moniker.) I told you myself that quote was there several weeks ago. Seems you like you want to play Where’s Waldo on both sides of the fence — or at least appear to?

    David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values and a self-described liberal Democrat, said of marriage, “[M]arriage is a gift that society bestows on its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood – biological, social and legal – into one pro-child form: the married couple. Marriage says to a child: The man and woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and father, accountable to the child and to each other.”

    PS: Still haven’t seen Tony Perkins? Here it is for the third time –and for the second time SCROLL DOWN! The tile of Perkins piece is “Conservatives Engage in Some Hire Learning”. It’s the second piece on the page: And Perkins did not say “openly gay lifestyle”, he said “openly homosexual lifestyle”. If you don’t understand the rhetorical difference there, then you make my point about how little attention you pay to the rhetoric of your conservative colleagues and friends. He goes on to take Grenell to task for advocating for UN status for gay people as a protected group in general – working to help gay people in countries where being “homosexual” is a criminal offense. But then of course your close friend Prof George believes US states should be able to criminalize gay relationships.

    I wonder that you guys didn’t bring that up as a pro/con debate – George vs Dale Carpenter – when Prof Carpenter’s Lawrence book came out. It is certainly an opinion that is regarded as a valid one by the IAV. Perhaps you can have MG, who has written in favor of government funding for ex-gay therapy and whose org continues to promote it, and Prof. Corvino debate that next month?

    Excuse the flourish, but this is rhetoric from your peeps. In the end, if you regard it as valid (or seek to minimize or excuse it) you, and this org, will be associated with it.

  26. Phil says:

    I am running for president on a platform of bombing Iraq. I hire as a spokesperson for domestic policy an Iraqi who publicly opposes bombing Iraq. My friend and supporter Sally tweets “What a dumb move, hiring someone who disagrees with bombing Iraq!” Question: Can we reasonably assume that Sally is an anti-Iraqi racist?

    The short answer to your question is, “No, I don’t think we can assume, from the criticism of hiring a person who holds that particular policy position, that Sally is an anti-Iraqi racist.” But there are some mitigating factors.

    For starters, I suspect that we can both agree it is possible for a person to take a position that is not racist (or bigoted), on its face, but is racist (or bigoted) in practice. For example, if a political candidate found a scientific study which concluded that blue-eyed spokespeople are more believable, and advocated that all U.S. ambassadors should have blue eyes, the candidate, as well as anyone criticizing him for hiring a brown-eyed spokesperson, could legitimately be called bigoted. The fact that there are racial and ethnic categories of people in this country who almost never have blue eyes cannot be ignored in that context.

    That example is a stretch, of course. But I think the point is valid: the fact that there are people in this country, who fit into a particular sexual orientation, and who almost never oppose their own right to marry, cannot be ignored. If there is virtually no difference between “a gay person” and “a gay person who supports the right of gay people to marry,” then, is it hair splitting to say that it is bigoted to oppose the hiring of “a gay person who supports the right of gay people to marry” but it is not bigoted to oppose the hiring of “a gay person?” For all practicaly purposes, you are opposing the hiring of virtually all gay persons in both instances.

    If we’re trying to make this thought experiment truly reflective of the situation with Grenell, it is important that the spokesperson in question actually be a member of the group affected by the proposed law. An Iraqi-American would only be affected indirectly by a platform that supports bombing Iraq, unless we are to assume that the platform is to bomb Iraq for no logical reason, in which case I think all Americans would be affected by the policy. (And while I would find that to be highly analogous to Romney’s SSM viewpoints, I suspect that you would disagree.)

    Because marriage law is an issue of rights–what an individual is allowed to do or not allowed to do–it doesn’t compare to policy positions that don’t involve rights. For your thought experiment to truly work, David, you have to hypothesize a spokesperson who is a member of the class that will be directly affected by the law.

    Here are some examples that I think would fit better:

    1. A candidate who believes that “Blue Laws” against business transactions should only be applied on Sundays, and a Jewish spokesperson who feels that Jewish businesses should be able to choose Saturdays instead.

    2. A candidate who believes that women should not be allowed to vote, and a female spokesperson who believes in women’s suffrage.

    3. A candidate who believes that people with disabilities should be forcibly sterilized and a disabled spokesperson who does not believe that s/he should be forcibly sterilized.

    Those examples would be more analogous to the Romney situation, since they involve hiring a spokesperson who is, themselves, a member of the class affected by the rights that the candidate opposes.

    If Sally tweets, “What a dumb move! Hiring someone who believes Jewish businesses should be able to stay open on Sundays!” or “What a dumb move! Hiring someone who believes disabled people shouldn’t be sterilized!” Or, “What a dumb move! Hiring someone who believes women should be able to vote just like men!” –would it be reasonable to call Sally a bigot or a sexist?

    What do you think?

  27. JeffreyRO5 says:

    There’s not much of a story here: Romney got threatened by religionist groups for putting in a prominent position an openly, unapologetic gay man. Romney feared losing the religionists’ political support. Romney cannot win in November unless he energizes evangelicals to vote for him (and not stay home). He cannot risk losing that voting bloc if evangelical leaders instruct their followers to stay home. Hence, the fortunes of one gay staffer are expendable. I think Romney just made a political calculation and one willing to dump a new hire, rather than risk losing votes he desperately needs, to win.

  28. David Blankenhorn says:

    Phil: I’m just not buying. You are alleging that opposing a policy is the same as denigrating a person. You are saying that, in this case, they are operationally the same thing. But that is an unreasonable position. In my view, a reasonable person can assert, as you seem to assert, that opposing ssm is by definition an expression of bigotry, but I respectfully suggest that a reasonable person, to the degree that he or she wants to remain reasonable, cannot assert that, in public discourse, attacking Billy’s policy view is indistinguishable from attacking Billy’s person.

    Chris: Too much hounding, too many global assertions, too much over-wrought rhetoric, too much playing of the victim card. You aren’t talking to me, you are berating me. I’m done with it.

  29. David Blankenhorn says:

    OK, one more run at this one, since it’s still nagging at me.

    I just read the FRC piece on “Hire Learning” — it’s a short blog entry under their “Washington Update” rubric. As far as I can tell, it’s unsigned. I agree with Chris and others that this post, although its larger purpose seems clearly to be part of FRC’s daily drip of attacking Romney for not being socially conservative enough, also constitutes an attack on Grenell — not just his views, but his person, as a gay man. If I had been the NYTs reporters, looking for actual sources to justify all those big adjectives (“intense attack”), I’d have used this one, since to me it’s more significant than Fischer’s tweet. Maybe they didn’t use it because it’s an unsigned post.

    My real curiosity here — which, contra Chris’s allegations, has nearly nothing to do with any desire on my part to defend the religous right, or anyone else, from charges of bigotry — is how easy it is, in today’s hot-house political culture, for something to spring from nothing, or if not nothing, then at least something not much bigger than a tweet. I don’t see much in way the way of an “intense attack” here; what I see instead is just a couple of examples of some of the slimy simplified stuff that passes for political conversation these days. The Romney people seem to have over-reacted in a kind of weak-knee’d way, paying way too much attention to not very much. And though I can’t say I know what it feels like to be in Grenell’s shoes, my gut tells me that it might have been better if he had simply stayed the course, and avoided the self-dramatizing resignation over a perceived slight. And (back to where I began) the NYTs should re-think the idea that a tweet and a burp from some interest group is suddenly front-page news. I honestly have no desire to white-wash bad or bigoted behavior, but there is a lacking of substance and seriousness here all around, a kind of tempest in an esspresso cup quality, that is noticeable, at least to me.

  30. Chris Gable says:


    You can’t even address, with the exception of NC amendment (and I recall that was a result of a similar conversation to the one we are having now), blatant examples of discrimination. Even when proof is staring you in the face.

    Or call out your friends Maggie and Robbie for their endorsement of state sodomy laws, ex-gay therapy, etc.

    Am I angry with you? Yes.

    Why? Because, though you profess support for gay people you refuse to acquaint yourself with the actual positions and rhetoric of your colleagues, George and Gallagher particularly – I recall you not being aware of the scope of the NC amendment until I acquainted you with it after an exchange like this one.

    I think you just don’t want to know about it.

    Anger, or least frustration, with you is warranted because you often stubbornly refuse to engage, even on indisputable evidence. Talk about playing the victim card! I think a lot of us have invested enough time engaging with you to deserve to ha evidence fully and fairly considered by you. That rarely happens.

    This strategy will make it more and more difficult for people to believe you have good will, which again I believe you have or I wouldn’t bother engaging you.

    You say if Grenell was hounded out of his job for being gay, you’d be ashamed. When does the shame of this hounding and the positions for the friends you support come to the surface?

    With the exception of Fischer, I’ve never seen you publicly criticize the any figure of the religious right, even for their most egregious actions or statements. Certainly not anyone who is a friend of yours. In fact, you never address actions/statements from these people in any way. It is as though those words and action don’t exist at all. (Though you must be aware of them. I would be very difficult not to be.)

    Attacking someone and hounding them out of their job — because they publicly avow that want to marry the person they love.

    How much longer do you think you can defend positions like that, and be taken seriously by anyone except the extreme religious right?

  31. Chris Gable says:

    NB: my last post cross posted with David. D — Let me redo that in light of what you just wrote.

  32. Chris Gable says:

    Thanks for the last post David.

    Having engaged with you over a long period, I know that you don’t want to whitewash the right.

    I’d suggest their are many examples of this that you’re unaware of. And I think it’s probably very difficult to hold the position you do as a “party of one”, or rather few. When you goals for kids are shared by people who believe some really awful stuff. (Btw, I’d suggest that many of us here, myself included, share those goals for kids, we differ great5ly on what is required of whom in order to get there of course.)

    This is the point I’ve been pressing you on, with varying degrees of tact admittedly (and for that I apologize), for I think years now. I’d humbly suggest that you fully consider examples of some of this rhetoric when presented. Or even research it yourself? (Rereading Gay City News or The Advocate is not a bad start.)

    As for Grenell, I see the difficulty Romney put him in, but he, himself put himself in a very odd situation working for a candidate who wants to bar him from something (his relationship, his family, cannot be separated from the legal recognition of it — David, I think that was Phil’s point, it’s not just a policy – it’s part and parcel of who Grenell is (who I am for that matter)) that defines his life. A very odd choice to make and one that is full of pitfalls.

  33. …but I respectfully suggest that a reasonable person, to the degree that he or she wants to remain reasonable, cannot assert that, in public discourse, attacking Billy’s policy view is indistinguishable from attacking Billy’s person.

    There’s a difference between attacking a policy view, and saying that employing someone with that policy view is anathema.

    I’m VERY pro-choice. I voted for Obama in part because he’s pro-choice, and when he hires/appoints people who are setting reproductive rights policy, he’ll choose pro-choice people.

    But it would be unreasonable for me to demand that no one who disagrees with my view should ever be employed in the executive branch, not even in positions that have virtually no relation to setting abortion policy. At that point, I’m not just saying that pro-lifers disagree with me on a policy issue; I’m saying that they’re to even employ them, in any capacity, is a betrayal. I’m saying that Americans SHOULD be so polarized on this issue that it’s not acceptable for those who disagree to work together amicably. I’m saying that maintaining that polarization is more important that actual job qualifications.

    I don’t think that “we should be able to have civil discourse on this issue” and “no one who disagrees with me on this issue should be employable by the government, in any important capacity” are mutually compatible views. Even if you don’t think “the comments come from bigotry, I think you should be able to criticize them as unreasonable, extremist, and incompatible with civil discourse.

    As for the bigotry question….

    Again I ask you — do you honestly believe that if Dick Cheney or John Bolton (straight men who have endorsed SSM) had been appointed to the position, the NRO writer and the religious right people would have reacted the same way?

    I don’t believe that for a moment. No one would look at a straight person with Bolton’s background and say “the most important thing to know about this person is that he favors SSM.” That would be ridiculous; Bolton’s entire professional life has been spent in foreign policy, and I can’t think of a single time he’s dealt with SSM on a professional basis.

    Yet when a gay man with a virtually identical professional background (years of foreign policy policy work, no professional background with SSM) has written a single op-ed and a few tweets favoring SSM, suddenly he’s being called “unhinged” in the NRO, and we’re told that he should be unemployable.

    You don’t think that’s at all suspicious behavior?

  34. Here’s a video of Fischer explicitly saying that people should discriminate against homosexuals.

    “You begin to see the implications when it comes to homosexuality, because you’re dealing there issues of content of character, and you are dealing with issues of behavior and conduct. And it’s perfectly appropriate to discriminate against immoral conduct.”

  35. Chris Gable says:

    And again, Fischer is the spokesperson for an organization that has a budget about that of NOM (many times larger than say IAV) and which owns 180 radio stations in the US. Bryan Fischer broadcasts this on all those stations. Hardly low level.

  36. Chris Gable says:

    Here’s a Washington Post op-ed from today from another gay man who served under the younger Bush. It’s very much speaks to what we’re discussing so I’ll post most of it.

    In 2001, when I, an openly gay career Foreign Service officer, was sworn in to serve as U.S. ambassador to Romania, I and many others hoped that the Republican Party’s obsession with demonizing gay and lesbian citizens was at an overdue end. George W. Bush had chosen me, after all, and a secretary of state known to have advocated for “don’t ask, don’t tell” had sworn me in.

    It wasn’t long before that hope was shattered. For months I received bags of hate mail, much of it from writers who identified themselves as “loyal Republicans.” A Republican congressional aide called soon after my arrival in Romania to ask whether my partner’s “socks and underwear” had been transported at taxpayer expense. It quickly became clear to me that the organizations that decried my nomination, or even called for it to be rescinded, shared a Republican membership base.

    Grenell surely knows, as I do, many Republicans who believe that their party should be more open to gays and more accepting on issues of gay rights. But where are those voices, and what influence do they have? Republican Party leaders continue to allow principles of fairness and equality — so important at the founding of the GOP and, indeed, our country — to be hollowed out.

    Over the first three months of my tenure as ambassador, I thought seriously of following the path that Grenell, in the end, took. At times, the graphic spite and incivility of letters I received made me cry. I knew that my life and that of my partner would be easier were I to move on to less-public responsibilities.

    I stayed in the job because I was a career professional and because our country’s interests after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were so important to me as an American. I knew that anti-gay voices at home had not eroded my access to or influence with Romanian officials. I knew that I served at the president’s pleasure and that, if political pressure ultimately became unbearable, the man who had selected me could ask me to leave.

    I also knew that giving in to the anti-gay crowd would make it only harder for the next gay man or woman to be nominated. That alone gave me the strength to endure those wrenchingly difficult months. I hope Grenell’s decision to leave the Romney campaign will not carry the same impact within his party.

    Too many voices have sought to lay Grenell’s departure at Romney’s door. That seems too far a stretch to me: Romney appointed Grenell on merit, and I salute his decision to do so. Gay Republican friends tell me that Romney has no personal animosity toward gay people. They quickly add that gay people other than Grenell are serving in Romney’s campaign.

    But Romney’s slowness to comment amid the noise since Grenell’s resignation raises questions about his principles, as well as the quality and depth of his leadership. That’s what should concern us most in this sad affair. We should expect Romney to go further in making clear that issues of sexual orientation will have no bearing on any personnel decisions he makes, whether in his campaign or, should he be elected, in the administration he would lead.

    The larger political backdrop to Grenell’s departure remains troubling to those of us who are gay. For far too many years, the Republican Party has harbored the drowners-out — the voices most responsible for ensuring that fair and equal rights of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens are a question, not a fact.

  37. David Blankenhorn says:

    Barry: Dick Cheney is not “virtually identical” to Grenell when it comes to background, or political power, or name recognition, or national status as a GOP stalwart. Therefore, to make the analogy you propose a fair one, I think you would have to say simply, “qualified straight person who publicly opposes Romney on gay marriage.” And if that were to happen, I suspect that, yes, the same few people on the religious right would be complaining, via a tweet here or a blog post there. I can’t prove it, of course, but it seems to me likely that that would happen. Remember, these people are looking for ANY reason, ANY excuse, to complain that Romney isn’t conservative enough. G was just there. The fact that G is gay made the attack “easier,” I suppose, from their (Fisher’s, FRC’s) pov, and of course because the attack was in part an attack on his person it make the attack more vicious and therefore more objectionable, but yes, I think a politically motivated attack would happen in either case.

  38. David, there’s no way to know for sure, unless Romney wins and does, in fact, appoint a heterosexual, pro-ssm conservative to some position or other. With all due respect, I think you’re too quick to dismiss the possibility that homophobia made a difference in some reactions to Grenell.

    Similarly, we won’t know until the campaign is long over and the tell-all books come out. But “a tweet here or a blog post there” in public might have included hundreds or thousands of calls, emails and letters to the Romney campaign from angry social conservatives.

    It may be that I’m just overestimating the Romney campaign. It’s now clear, if you’ve been following the reporting on this, that the Romney campaign did indeed tell Grenell not to speak to reporters on a foreign policy conference call that Grenell was expected to be part of. If what you’re saying is true — if Romney did that in response to virtually no pressure at all from any social conservatives — then Romney was just acting in a purely irrational manner. To me, that seems implausible, but who knows?

  39. David Blankenhorn says:

    Well, Barry, you may be right. But if there were in fact “hundreds or thousands of calls, emails and letters to the Romney campaign from angry social conservatives,” or some such equivalent, why hasn’t anyone reported that fact? Is the nation filled with journalists who want to ignore relevant facts in order to give the religious right a free ride?

    And yes, I am suggesting that the Romney campaign over-reacted in the face of, not much! Plus, we have to be wary of 20/20 hindsight vision; I doubt that they expected that G might resign, and the news stories say that they tried very hard to dissuade him from resigning. They seem to have been thinking that they were simply being cautious, in a kind of corporate-culture way. They certainly didn’t want or expect this to blow up in their face. They HIRED the guy, after all, and told him up front that his being gay was a non-issue for them. So yes, I do have a kind of something-from-nothing hypothesis about this, based on my belief that there is a kind of absurdity at the center of our Age of Tweet. But as you say, that could be wrong. I admit that to some degree I’m just guessing.

  40. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “You are alleging that opposing a policy is the same as denigrating a person.”

    Parsing alert! When it comes to public policy, denying a legal right only to a specific minority is an act of bigotry, once you know who’s affected by it, and how. It’s like demanding that voting rights be limited to men but that you have no ill intentions toward women. Once someone tells you the price that women pay for not being able to vote, and you maintain your position, you have become bigoted against women. It may not have been your initial intention but it has become, at least in part, your intention after the fact.

    Like voting, the same-sex marriage issue has a particular mathematical intrigue, as there are essentially only two groups involved, straights and gays. It’s rhetorically easy enough to claim to be merely supportive of straights, even if deep down you actually disapprove of (or worse) gays. Maggie Gallagher is a master at this kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand, instructing her followers to “never say we’re against same-sex marriage….it costs us 10 points in the polls. Say we’re ‘for traditional marriage’….” Same outcome but it sounds less hostile and harsh.

    So whether you just think straight people are more deserving of legal protections for their relationships, or gay people are just less deserving or underserving, the math is still the same: diminished status for gays and lesbians, and their children! Bravo! Three cheers! You’ve harmed innocent kids, and with a smile on your face!

  41. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “Republican Party leaders continue to allow principles of fairness and equality — so important at the founding of the GOP and, indeed, our country — to be hollowed out.”

    The GOP is terrified of the monster it has created: an unabashedly, unashamedly hate-filled GOP voter. Hate aimed at gays and lesbians, hate aimed an anyone who would limit their gun-owning rights, hate aimed at anyone who questions the primacy of Christianity in civic life. The GOP primary campaign has been a shocking lesson in what you have to do and say to win the GOP nomination. Romney’s camp even admits how different their general election campaign will have to be, if Romney is to win a general election.

    I’d almost feel sorry for GOP politicians but they created this monster!

  42. Phil says:

    The GOP is terrified of the monster it has created: an unabashedly, unashamedly hate-filled GOP voter.

    I had a conversation with an old college buddy who said almost exactly the same thing: the GOP has been pandering to ignorance and bigotry for so long that they have become the default party of racists, bigots, sexists, Islamophobes, and paranoid anti-intellectuals.

    This is not to say that all Republicans are racist/bigoted/etc. Just that, if you’re a homophobe, or a racist, or you honestly believe that the entire scientific establishment is conspiring to destroy the world you love, then there is one party that you are far, far more likely to call home than the other. The GOP has played on fear, hatred, and ignorance for so long, and we are now seeing the chickens coming home to roost. (It is fair to say that the Democrats have also played on fear, but not nearly so much on fear of specific, identifiable groups of people.)

    I suspect that this will prove to have been a long-term strategic mistake at the national level, as America becomes more diverse. It will take a while, for example, for several potential constituencies to become up-for-grabs by the GOP.